Rethinking IT and business transformation success

Over the past several years, our understanding of IT failure has evolved and deepened. It's now time to start a new dialog focused on opportunity and success.

Over the past several years, our understanding of IT failure has evolved and deepened. It's now time to start a new dialog focused on opportunity and success.

This post establishes a framework for considering that new dialog; future blogs will explore the implications.


Most software deployments are actually business transformation initiatives that involve technology. As with other business projects, implementation success often requires collaboration and open communication across information silos and organizational boundaries.

Collaboration across silos is among the major challenges facing all significant business projects, including those connected with IT and technology. Consequently, no enterprise customer, vendor, or system integrator is immune to the challenge of project failure or waste.

The scope of potential business risk, coupled with high costs, understandably drives fear and uncertainty among those involved in IT projects. Accordingly, many organizations have a strong cultural bias against discussing these topics openly, which encourages the negative cycle of repeated failure.

Such attitudes do not serve either the enterprise industry or its customers.

In response, a new, people-centric view of IT success and failure has emerged. This view recognizes success as a shared industry challenge that is not unique to any particular vendor, integrator, or enterprise customer.

The convergence of three powerful and pervasive forces has caused this shift toward a healthier view of IT and business transformation:

1. Economic. The deep recession forced virtually every organization and the government to reduce costs, demand higher ROI, and more closely examine technology-related operating costs. This cost-centered focus pushes companies to execute fewer, yet more successful, projects, while demanding higher value and innovation from vendors, partners, and employees.

2. Social. The broad growth of social networking pushed discussion about collaboration and corporate culture out from the narrow confines of organizational development into mainstream consciousness. Since most failures involve dysfunctional communication across information silos or corporate groups, social networking provides a common foundation and terminology for discussing dynamics of business transformation and culture.

3. Technological. Cloud computing and software as a service changed market expectations related to technology deployment, ease of use, and adoption. Already, many enterprise buyers now define the cloud as an implicit competitive alternative during negotiations with vendors and consulting companies.

These forces lead us to a renewed understanding of IT and business transformation marked by greater opportunity for success, reduced waste, stronger innovation, and higher value for customers.

Although IT failure remains a serious economic and political drain on global resources, collaboration and increased transparency offer great promise for the future and a golden age of IT success!

Please share your views about the issues raised in this post!

Update 3/23/10: This post is not meant to endorse or criticize either SaaS or on-premise vendors; in fact, most of these issues are applicable to both.

[Thanks to members of the Accidental Social CRM community for feedback on the ideas in this post.]